Born in Mechelen, a famous center for furniture making, Wijnants began his career in this local industry. Furnished with this foundation in carving, he followed his ambition to become an independent artist by enrolling in the Mechelen Academy of Fine Art and later in the Brussels Academy where he studied under Charles Van der Stappen. At the 1913 World Fair in Ghent Wijnants exhibited Echo, his first work to show a truly original style which combines something of the modernism of George Minne with a delicacy of line and concentration on the feminine beauty of his model. This genre continued with the series of nudes he made for Frédéric Speth in which the range of his inspiration from classical Greek sculpture to European Gothic becomes ever more apparent. Through the 1920s and 1930s Wijnants established himself as one of the prime exponents of Belgian sculpture, leading to teaching positions in Antwerp, and, in 1938, was awarded the State prize for Sculpture and the Plastic Arts.
Wijnants stands as one of the truly individualistic sculptors on the European front along with such artists as sculptor George Minne and painter Rik Wouters. Done in 1930, his work is characterized by a haunting mix of elongated form, a primitivism of form in a stylized way and a fascinating use of texture. There is even an Egyptian influence to the side turned head and almost flattened and stiff stance of the arm and legs. The stylized rendering of the dress is sheer genius. Wijnants uses a hammered surface along with a mottled, painted patina that demonstrates a painstaking attention to the quality of the work. This sculpture was the cover piece to a recent exhibition on the artist. Wijnants was awarded the State Prize for Sculpture and the Plastic Arts in Antwerp and is a leading Belgian sculptor. Few sculptures of equal stature can be put aside this work and be considered more unique or finer in presence. The woman’s elegant movement and exotic costume, combined with a sense of primitivism, reminiscent of African sculpture, characterize Wijnants’ varied source.
François Franck Collection
Private Collection, London
Galerie Maurice Tzwern, Ernest Wijnants Beeldhouwer Sculpteur 1878-1964, Brussels 2003, cat. No. 25 (Cover Illustration)